The Historic Post Town “Tsumago-juku”
Photo Credit: Japanexperterna.se@flickr
Tsumago-juku was one of the post towns on the Nakasendo, which was a route in the Edo period that connected Tokyo to Kyoto. Tsumago-juku is located in Nagiso, Kiso District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. It has been restored the way it looked during the Edo period and it is now a popular tourist destination.
In Edo period, around 17th to 19th century, most people had to travel by foot. Nakasendo is around 540 kilometers one way between Tokyo and Kyoto, so it takes more than two weeks to Kyoto from Tokyo on foot. Therefore there are sixty-nine post towns on Nakasendo and Tsumago-juku is the one of them. “Tsumago (妻籠)” is the name of the station and “Juku (宿)” means “an accommodation or a place to stay” in Japanese.
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Address: 2159-2 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 10 minute bus ride from Minami Kiso Station
Phone: 0264-57-3123 (Nagiso Town Office)
Website: Nagiso Town
Things to See at Tsumago-juku
#1. Nagiso Museum of History
At the Nagiso Museum there is the Tsumago-juku’s former honjin and Okuya, the waki-honjin, and The Nagiso Museum of History. The honjin is the main in, was destroyed and rebuilt in 1995. The original building was the secondary inn and it still remains and was named an Important Cultural Property in 2001. The Nagiso Museum of History has information about the area’s history, the preservation of the houses, and data about the houses.
#2. Wachino Shrine
The Wachino Shrine is a small shrine and there are 65 steps leading up to the shrine. Every year in July on the 23rd and the 24th, there is a festival in the evening. The town is illuminated by lanterns and people walk along side the Mikoshi.
#3. Pathway to Magome
Along the Nakasendo, there were homes for common people built in the mid-18th century. There were shops and inns for travelers. The houses and shops along the road are restored to the way it looked like during the Edo period. A large part of the original highway has been preserved between Tsumago and Magome. Magome is the restored town next door. Walking between the towns is peaceful, you walk pasts forests and a waterfall. There is a bus service provides between the towns.
#1. Yamagiri Shokudo
Yamagiri Shokudo makes Gohei Mochi. Gohei Mochi is made from rice pounded, molded onto a stick and then grilled over a fire. A sweet and salty sauce is based on while cooking. This shop’s main souvenir is the original sesame sauce and the pre-packaged mochi with sesame sauce. The sesame sauce can be put on vegetables and fish.
Koraiya is a souvenir shop that sells Geta and other Japanese themed goods. Geta are a mixture between wooden clogs and flip flops. They sell items that can only be found at Tsumago-juku. Try the chestnut soft serve ice cream while shopping at Koraiya.
#3. Kinomise Aburaya
Kinomise Aburaya specializes in beautiful lacquered wooden dishes. Wooden dishes have been used for many years and when the dishes are used for hot food, the food tastes even better. These dishes are handcrafted by carpenters from the local area and a specialty wood is use to create these dishes. The shop also makes things like lunch boxes, chopsticks, and cups.
Wachinoya serves “Oyaki”, and it is the only shop serving this treat at Tsumago-juku. Oyaki is Japanese dumplings made from fermented buckwheat dough, it is filled with vegetables, fruit, or sweet red bean paste then roasted on an iron pan. Then the bun is steamed or broiled.
Otokichi serves traditional food from the Edo period. Every season brings something different, Sansai in the spring, wild Ayu fish in the summer, Matsutake mushrooms in the fall, and Shishi hot pot in the winter.
Kongoya serves course meals such as grilled fish, pickled vegetables, soba, rice, fruit, and steamed vegetables. The restaurant is in a traditional house so it feels like you are dining at a piece of history. The handmade soba is a must try.
Yoshimuraya serves only handmade food and the taste is proof. Once you take a bite of the soba, the flavor from the noodles gets even stronger. Pair the soba with seasonal vegetable tempura or rice cooked with vegetables.
Ebiya serves delicious tea and sweets. This might be the cafe with the longest history in Tsumago-juku. The building is over 100 years old. Using seasonal chestnuts, the must eat dish for the fall is the chestnut sweet red bean soup. This restaurant uses a specific type of red beans and chestnuts. The sweet chestnut paste is a very popular item and many people buy it as a souvenir.
Daikichi is a traditional Japanese inn that will take you back in time, you will feel like you are in the Edo period. They offer Japanese dinner and breakfast for foods such as soba, tempura, mountain vegetables, and local wine etc. All of the rooms are traditional tatami mat, there is television and air conditioning. Since the room can be a little smaller than a normal hotel, it is recommended to not bring large suitcases.
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Address: 902 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Since 1789, Maruya has been a private lodge for travelers. The meals they serve might not be fancy, but they sure are authentic. Meals are eating together with all of the guest staying at the house. The rooms are very traditional so it feels like the Edo period. In the winter, guests can sit around the fire in the communal area.
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Address: 1477 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
Hanya has many international guest so it is a nice place to meet people from around the world. This inn is made up cypress wood so it has a distinctive smell. There is a communal bathroom and two private shower rooms. Most rooms can fit three people.
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Address: 1811 Azuma, Nagiso-machi, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture